CPL. STANLEY OLMSTEAD BATTLES SINGLE HANDEDLY WITH 88MM GUN
THESSALON, April 17
In the edition of the Toronto Weekly Star of April 14th, Matthew Halton, war correspondent, gives a full description of a heroic action in which a Canadain company of 50 men went in, and "only 17 came back". A local boy Corporal Stanley Olmstead one of the 17 who came back is mentioned for his bravery and courage. Stanley is now in a hospital suffering from "Battle Exhaustion".
The article reads in part " Lieut. Ken Wharton of Hamilton described to me every incident, and introduced to each one his little band of heroes - only 17 of them out of nearly 90 men of Abel Company who had started forward into the horror of that two mile advance.
They started up their railway as far as they could go. They had no expected to be couner shelled, and mortared behind their own barrage all the way. But the Germans were out to defend this position to the last bloody ditch. The company commander was killed, as they crossed a little stream, firing from the hip with ther Bren guns, more than halfway to the objective. A shell fragment killed him but as he died he flung the torch to Wharton with the last five words of his gallant life - "Ken, take the compnay through."
Wharton and his men went on down the road to death. The Germans were flirting not only shells, mortars and machine guns, they even opened up from a factory with armor piercing shot from anti-tank guns.
But somehow Abel Company got on their objective and suddenly they were in among 35 German paratroopers, maniacal fighting men with machine guns, bazookas, hand-grenades, rifles and even bayonets. This gives you and idea of the kind of fighting there was on the road from Kieve to Xanten. Any fighting soldier will tell you how rare bayonet fighting is in a real battle. On the day I wrote of Abel Company had gone in to attack with their bayonets fixed.
The day was a long paroxysm of the most savage fighting. There were not only the 35 paratroopers in the bushes fighting like demons. There were counter-attacks from the wooded hill a few hundred yards away. And open sight by self propelled guns 300 yards away.
I wish I could describe the atmosphere of that red and smoking battle field as Wharton told me what his men had done, and the atmosphere of gallantry and of deep and abiding comradeships which come out of that action.
CPL. OLMSTEADS STORY
Then I heard the horrific story of Cpl. Stanley Omsted (Thessalon, Ont) who single handed had a mad and terrible duel with an 88 mm gun. His whole section had been wiped out in their slit trenches by grenades. Olmstead was shooting from his slit trench when the 88mm only 300 yards away, which he had not seen until then, turned its attention to him. To him personally, an 88 one of the most deadly and accurate pieces of artillery in the world trying to kill one man only 300 yards away. One shell caved in Olmsteads slit trench, but he went on fighting - sniping at the German gunners- until the gun was knocked out by the shells.
Wharton said "Olmstead's a simply terrific guy".
Someone else said, "Yes he sure got lots of moxy."
Captain Coleman added, "You can say that again."
It is easy to say a man is a hero, that he fought a duel with an 88. But that does not tell the story, that does not make you see the picture unless you have seen a battle. It gives you no idea of the splitting, crunching, stuttering horror, when the chips are down and there is a hopeless job to do, and every man knows, most of the company will die and yet goes on.